03 December 2010

Hagia Sofia

The Hagia Sofia is probably one of the most famous places in Istanbul. Built between 532 and 537 it was first an Orthodox basilica and was converted to a mosque in 1453. Totally check out the Wikipedia link, it has a really interesting history. Including the fact that this once Christian church was the model for many mosques including the Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque, which according to my guidebook is the most important mosque in Istanbul today. Sadly after I'd hiked all the way up the hill to see it I discovered it was closed for construction. Not pleased.

Back to the Hagia Sofia then.

 Ah ha! Looked, I managed an outside picture of something. Yay me :) You can see the original structure and how the minarets were added later.

 I love the low-hanging chandeliers. We'll see these later in mosques too.

 A six-winged Seraph. That's the only one that has a face. The rest on the dome are bursts of feathers.

 Mary, Jesus, and ... Saint John? Someone help me out...

 The Archangel Gabriel. This is all that's left of him. Accross the dome Saint Michael the Archangel used to have his own spot but he has not survived.

 See in the dome? Six-winged Seraphs. One has a face the other is just feathers.

I actually rather liked the mix of Christian and Islamic religious symbols and influences. To me it actually seemed to mimic the culture of Turkey quite a bit and way it straddles both the east and west. Now adays the Hagia Sofia is neither church nor mosque but a museum. It still has the feel, the hushed, still atmosphere of a church. I guess if you're something for so long you never forget how to be that something.

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